Objective: To better understand the experiences and behaviors of battered pregnant adolescents and the characteristics of their intimate partners.
Methods: As part of a longitudinal multiracial/ethnic study of drug use among pregnant and parenting adolescents, 724 adolescents < or = 18 years of age completed face-to-face interviews on the postpartum unit between April 1994 and February 1996. Adolescent mothers reported on demographic characteristics, social support and peer contact, level of substance use before and during pregnancy, nonconforming behaviors, and both lifetime and concurrent exposure to violence. Information about the father of her baby included his level of substance use, gang and police involvement, and intimate partner violence. Chi-square and Student's t tests were used to identify victim, partner, and relationship characteristics associated with being assaulted by the father of her baby during the preceding year.
Results: Eighty-six (11.9%) adolescents reported being physically assaulted by the fathers of their babies. Assaulted adolescents were significantly more likely than nonassaulted adolescents to have been exposed to other forms of violence over the same 12-month period, including verbal abuse, assault by family members, being in a fight where someone was badly hurt, reporting fear of being hurt by other teens, witnessing violence perpetrated on others, and carrying a weapon for protection. A history of nonconforming behavior and frequent or recent substance use was more common among both battered adolescents and their perpetrator partners. The age and race/ethnicity of the pregnant adolescent and the length of her relationship with the father of her baby were not associated with assault status.
Conclusions: Pregnant adolescents who are assaulted by intimate partners appear to live in violence-prone environments and to have partners who engage in substance use and other nonconforming behaviors. Comprehensive assessments are critical for all adolescent females at risk of assault, and direct questions about specific behaviors or situations must be used.